Safrole

CAS RN: 94-59-7

Health Effects

0.2.1 SUMMARY OF EXPOSURE
  • A) BACKGROUND: The main constituent of sassafras oil is safrole. The oil is extracted from the root bark of the tree Sassafras albidum or the wood of certain Ocotea species. The oil consists of approximately 50 to 80% safrole (a phenolic ether), 10% pinene and phennandrene, 6 to 8% camphor, 0.5% eugenol, and 3% cardinene. Sassafras albidum is distributed throughout North America. It is found in dry, sandy loams, bordering roads or woods from Massachusetts to Ontario, Iowa, Kansas, south to Florida and Texas.
  • B) USES: It was traditionally used as a diuretic and for urinary tract disorders. Currently, sassafras oil containing safrole is banned by the FDA for use in commercially manufactured mass produced foods and drugs due to health concerns. Sassafras teas, sassafras pellets, and sassafras oil for human consumption may still be obtained from many health food stores.
  • C) EPIDEMIOLOGY: Exposure is uncommon.
  • D) WITH POISONING/EXPOSURE
    • 1) OVERDOSE: Limited data. Clinical effects have been relatively self-limiting, minor events and fatalities are rare (one case reported prior to 1960).
    • 2) ADVERSE EFFECTS: Following the ingestion of sassafras oil, symptoms can include vomiting, stupor, vertigo, and pallor which can appear within 10 to 90 minutes. Excessive consumption of tea prepared from the roots of the shrub sassafras albidum has produced sweating.
0.2.3 VITAL SIGNS
  • A) Tachycardia, hypotension, and respiratory paralysis have occurred after the ingestion of sassafras oil.
0.2.4 HEENT
  • A) Sassafras is a mild mucous membrane irritant. Dilated pupils may be seen. Sassafras is loss of a mucous membrane irritant then other volatile oils.
0.2.5 CARDIOVASCULAR
  • A) Tachycardia, cardiovascular collapse, and shock have been seen after ingestion of the oil.
0.2.6 RESPIRATORY
  • A) Tightness in the chest and respiratory paralysis may occur.
0.2.7 NEUROLOGIC
  • A) Stupor, vertigo, and aphasia have been reported following ingestion. Hallucinations and trembling of the arms and hands have been seen.
0.2.8 GASTROINTESTINAL
  • A) Abdominal pain and vomiting may be seen.
0.2.9 HEPATIC
  • A) Large doses may cause fatty changes in the liver.
0.2.14 DERMATOLOGIC
  • A) Diaphoresis and flushing of the skin has been reported in an adult who drank up to 10 cups of sassafras tea. Sassafras oil is a mild dermal irritant.
0.2.17 METABOLISM
  • A) Safrole may stimulate or inhibit certain liver microsomal enzymes.
0.2.20 REPRODUCTIVE
  • A) Spermatogenesis in mice was affected following intraperitoneal administration of safrole (Lewis, 1991).
0.2.21 CARCINOGENICITY
  • A) Safrole is IARC category 2B. Adequate human data is not available. Safrole is a hepatocarcinogen in animals (IARC, 1987; (Bisset, 1994).
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